A LEADING theatre group has called on Dudley Council not to give up on reopening the Dudley Hippodrome as a performance venue.

The intervention from the Theatres Trust follows a decision this week by Dudley Council's cabinet to grant a nine month extension to the Dudley Driverless Vehicle Consortium to develop their plans for a test track on the Castle Hill site.

The Theatres Trust, which is a national advisory public body for theatres, blasted the decision as "disappointing" and called on the council to offer the same support to campaigners who want to see the building restored as an entertainment venue and community space.

A spokeswoman from the group said: "There is still an active group trying to save this theatre who, with the same level of support and amount of time offered to the driverless car consortium, may be able to develop a viable plan for a busy community hub. We have written to the council many times to encourage discussions around other potential uses for the Hippodrome site."

She added: "With a partnership between local people, the council and other stakeholders Dudley Hippodrome could be a wonderful cultural hub for the community. This is why the recent decision by Dudley Council is so disappointing and neglects Dudley’s history and the public support for saving this building."

The Dudley Driverless Vehicle Consortium was given 12 months to develop a viable business plan for the site back in 2012.

A cabinet meeting on January 6, where the extension was granted. heard how the council has yet to see a detailed report of the consortium's plans.

The Theatres Trust say the extension to this deadline is "concerning" as the community group who previously had the keys the theatre had their lease terminated after one year.

She added: "It seems unreasonable that a voluntary community group working with no support was not extended the same opportunity given to professional organisations to develop their business plan."

The Dudley Driverless Vehicle Consortium now has until September to finalise plans for the site.